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U.S. REP. JEB HENSARLING WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 2018

Jeb Hensarling

Hensarling, who chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee, announced his retirement in an October 31 statement, less than two weeks before filing begins for the 2018 primaries. Hensarling, 60, first elected in 2002, said he has stayed in Congress “far longer than I had originally planned” and decided to leave at the end of his current term, when term limits would have forced him out of his chairmanship. He is the third Texas House member to forgo running in 2018, joining Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and GOP U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson. (Posted October 31)

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ANALYSIS: SOUTH WILL BE KEY TO KEEPING GOP CONTROL IN 2018

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics editor

With President Trump’s approval ratings at historically low levels, Democrats have high hopes of taking back the U.S. House in 2018. But those hopes are tempered by a giant geographic obstacle standing in their way — namely, the South. To reclaim the House, Democrats need to flip 24 seats, shifting about 10 percent of the seats that Republicans now hold. But a 10 percent shift in the South would require winning 11 seats, and, if Democrats fall short of that total, they will need to shift an even higher percentage of seats throughout the rest of the country — as much as 19 percent if they come up empty in the South. And as right now, they have a realistic shot at flipping just seven Southern seats, five of which have been in Republican hands for decades and only one of which is currently open. (Posted July 12)

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HANDEL KEEPS GEORGIA 6TH DISTRICT IN REPUBLICAN HANDS

Karen Handel

Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, won a runoff for the state’s 6th District U.S. House seat, dashing Democratic hopes of embarrassing President Trump by snatching away a seat that has been safely in GOP hands for decades. Handel won 52.1 percent in the June 20 vote, defeating Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old filmmaker and former congressional aide, who took 47.9 percent despite raising more than $23 million. All told, more than $50 million was spent on the race, making it the most expensive House contest in U.S. history. (Posted June 20)

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GOP KEEPS S.C. 5TH DISTRICT WITH VASTLY DECREASED MARGIN

Ralph Norman

Republican Ralph Norman has won the special election for South Carolina’s 5th District U.S. House seat, but Democrat Archie Parnell trimmed more than 17 points from the GOP’s 2016 margin. Norman, a former state representative, won 51.1 percent to 47.9 percent for Parnell, a former Wall Street executive. That 3.2-point margin was a major drop from November, when President Trump won the district by 19 points and Mick Mulvaney, who gave up the seat to become director of the Office of Management and Budget, won by nearly 21 points. (Posted June 20)

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GOWDY NAMED AS HEAD OF HOUSE INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE

Gowdy

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who gained national prominence for his investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was selected June 8 by the Republican Steering Committee to chair the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, replacing U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Gowdy’s Benghazi probe led to the disclosure that Hillary Clinton had used a private email server during her time as secretary of state, which dogged her throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. A former federal and state prosecutor in South Carolina, Gowdy represents the state’s 4th District.

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SUPREME COURT SAYS NO TO N.C. CONGRESSIONAL MAP

The high court has upheld a ruling striking down the congressional map approved by North Carolina lawmakers after the 2010 census because it relied too heavily on racial considerations in drawing the new lines. Although the May 22 ruling will have little impact because the map was already changed after the state lost in a lower court, it could affect a pending case in Texas and curtail the ability of GOP majorities in Southern statehouses to maximize safe GOP seats by packing black voters into a small number of districts. (Posted May 23)

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CORRINE BROWN CONVICTED OF MISUSING CHARITY FUNDS

Brown

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, an icon in North Florida’s African-American community who served 24 years in Congress, is likely headed to prison after being found guilty of 18 fraud and tax charges related to a scheme to divert money from a fraudulent scholarship charity to pay personal expenses. No sentencing date has been set, but, given the number and magnitude of the charges, the 70-year-old former Democratic congresswoman could potentially spend much of the rest of her life behind bars.  (Posted May 12)

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5 SOUTHERN GOP HOUSE MEMBERS OPPOSE OBAMACARE REPEAL

Hurd

Comstock

While five Southern GOP members defied party leaders and President Trump to oppose a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new blueprint for U.S. health care, five other GOP lawmakers holding potentially vulnerable seats took a different tack and supported it. Two of the Southern GOP no votes came from Will Hurd of Texas and Barbara Comstock of Virginia, who represent districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. A third lawmaker from a district Clinton carried, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, also voted no but is retiring in 2018. The other two Republicans who voted against the bill, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter Jones of North Carolina, did so because they thought the repeal measure didn’t go far enough. Among the potentially vulnerable members voting yes were Florida’s Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast and Mario Diaz-Balart; John Culberson of Texas; and Ted Budd of North Carolina. (Posted May 4)

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ROS-LEHTINEN TO RETIRE , PUTTING GOP-HELD SEAT IN PLAY

Ros-Lehtinen

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, dean of Florida’s House delegation and the first Cuban-born member of Congress, says she won’t seek re-election in 2018 to her 27th District seat, closing three decades of service that have made her an icon in Miami’s politically powerful Cuban-American community. Republicans will now have to defend a seat from a district Donald Trump lost by 20 points but which returned Ros-Lehtinen to office term after term. The moderate congresswoman has been at odds with Trump and members of her own party, but she insisted neither the current Washington political climate nor her district’s increasing Democratic tilt prompted her retirement. (Posted May 1)

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STOCKMAN BLAMES “DEEP STATE” FOR CORRUPTION INDICTMENT

Stockman

Federal prosecutors are blaming former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman and an aide for an ongoing scheme to bilk $1.25 million from charitable foundations and divert it for personal use. But Stockman, in the dock, is blaming the “deep state” for his legal woes. Stockman, a Republican who served two stints in the House before losing a Senate primary in 2014, is facing charges of mail and wire fraud, money laundering, violating campaign finance laws and filing a false tax return. Stockman, arrested while trying to catch a flight to the Middle East, said the “deep state” was trying to exact revenge for his longtime opposition to the IRS, according to the Houston Chronicle. (Posted March 30)

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COLE CALLS ON TRUMP TO APOLOGIZE FOR WIRETAP CLAIMS

Cole

Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who serves as a deputy whip in the House GOP leadership, told reporters that there is “no indication” that Donald Trump’s allegation that Barack Obama had his phones tapped during the presidential campaign is true. “It’s not a charge I would ever have made. And frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think … President Obama is owed an apology,” said Cole. “If (Obama) didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.” Cole represents Oklahoma’s 4th District, which stretches from the southern Oklahoma City suburbs south to the Texas border. Trump carried the district by 38 points in November. (Posted March 18)

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13 SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT TRUMP INAUGURAL

southern states smThirteen of the 40 Southern Democrats in the U.S. House have announced that they will not take part in January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump. Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia are among the no-shows. All of the boycotting members represent urban or black-majority districts that were carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump’s tweets castigating U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, for announcing an inauguration boycott seemed to particularly rankle some of the members opting not to attend; his reaction was called “repugnant,” “ignorant,” and “insensitive and foolish.” (Posted January 18)

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‘CAJUN JOHN WAYNE’ SCORES OUTSIDER WIN IN LOUISIANA

Higgins

Republicans captured both U.S. House seats that were up in December 10 runoffs in Louisiana. In the 3rd District, Clay Higgins, a tough-talking former deputy sheriff and Internet celebrity dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne,” surprised Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a veteran of the Louisiana political scene. In the 4th District, Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish defeated Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport. With those wins, the GOP will hold five of Louisiana’s six U.S. House seats and 114 of the South’s 154 seats. (Posted December 11)

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DEMOCRATS MAKE 2-SEAT GAIN IN SOUTHERN U.S. HOUSE RACES

election-central-16Democrats made a slight, two-seat net gain in Southern Republican U.S. House seats in the November 8 election, taking down two Republican incumbents in Florida but coming up short in targeted GOP-held seats in Virginia and Texas. Republicans also picked up an open seat along Florida’s Treasure Coast and kept an open seat in Louisiana, where two Republicans will face each other in a December 10 runoff. Republicans still hold a commanding lead over Democrats in House seats in the South, 113 to 40, with another seat in Louisiana still to be determined. (Posted November 9)

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